MANILA, Feb 24 - The Philippines health ministrysaid on Wednesday it will investigate the illegal use ofunauthorised COVID-19 vaccines, after a presidential advisoradmitted to receiving shots of a Sinopharm vaccine smuggled intothe country. Ramon Tulfo, a celebrity radio and television host andspecial envoy to China, revealed in his newspaper column on Feb.20 and again in an interview with One News that he received adose in October from a batch that was also used by PresidentRodrigo Duterte's security detail. "I got hold of vaccines from a friend who smuggled it intothe country," Tulfo told One News. News last month of Duterte's bodyguard unit taking thevaccine, which it said was without the president's knowledge,prompted criticism from lawmakers about privileged access andflouting of laws. Several government officials also received Sinopharmshots, Tulfo said, adding to speculation that vaccineswere available on the black market. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved useof the Sinopharm vaccine, making its importation anddistribution illegal. Sinopharm has not sought emergency useauthorisation in the Philippines. "We are investigating because it's not good to learn ofthese inoculations that did not go through proper procedures,"FDA chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said. Philippine Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire saidrecipients of unauthorised vaccines were also accountable. Calls to Sinopharm in China were unanswered, and aspokeswoman for its unit developing COVID-19 vaccines has yet torespond to written queries. Tulfo, 74, said he had wanted to test the vaccine's efficacyas he was applying to be a distributor. "I don't feel guilty about it," he said. REUTERS
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